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July 19, 2024
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In 2022, we had the battle for Cape Town, and there was an unusual route case. Here’s an update on where the market has moved since.

South African Airways once dominated this market but has fallen away, a shadow of its former self. Now, two of the largest US airlines battle for the market daily.  The traffic flow has changed; formerly, it was mostly South Africans coming north, but now, it is Americans going south.  It may be far, but the US dollar stretches very pleasantly in South Africa, making this an excellent value-for-money destination.

DoT T-100; AirInsight

The chart above shows that traffic in 2023 was substantially higher than ever since 2010. It is interesting to discover that this tiny market attracted Delta and United’s attention. The US-to-South Africa market is similar in size to Austria, Poland, and Greece.

Tracking these two airlines, we see that Delta has managed to pull slightly ahead of United.

DoT T-100; AirInsight

There are two primary ports of entry in South Africa: Cape Town, on the southern tip of the continent, and Johannesburg, about 1,000 miles northeast of Cape Town. Since the gold rush days, Johannesburg has been the country’s business hub.  Cape Town was the original spot where Europeans landed and built a supply base for shipping before venturing up the eastern coast of Africa and onto India or beyond.

As we mentioned above, there was a battle for Cape Town in 2022.  It turns out both Delta and United were on to something.

DoT T-100; AirInsight

A growing number of Americans are traveling to South Africa, and Cape Town is increasingly attractive. Both Delta and United offer daily service, with United offering service from Dulles and Newark.  Delta offers service from Atlanta, serving Johannesburg and Cape Town daily,

If we slice the traffic to Cape Town, the market share changes in favor of United.

DoT T-100; AirInsight

Delta serves the market with A350-900s while United uses 787-9 and, seasonally, 777-200s. United is winning Cape Town in both passenger and freight traffic.  While Delta is the market leader on a national basis, the growth market is Cape Town, and United is significantly ahead there.

author avatar
Addison Schonland
Co-Founder AirInsight. My previous life includes stints at Shell South Africa, CIC Research, and PA Consulting. Got bitten by the aviation bug and ended up an Avgeek. Then the data bug got me, making me a curious Avgeek seeking data-driven logic. Also, I appreciate conversations with smart people from whom I learn so much. Summary: I am very fortunate to work with and converse with great people.

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